On November 13th, Haverford students performed songs and poetry about peace and justice issues in Lunt basement as part of Jamnesty, an open mic Amnesty International event.
Leah Hollander, the head of Haverford’s Amnesty International and the organizer of Jamnesty, was pleased to finally have this event launched.
“Jamnesty is an event that I have been trying to get off the ground for the past year,” she said. “We wanted to bring together the different groups on campus under the common theme of human rights.”
Melissa Lee-Litowitz ’15, the Master of Ceremonies for the event, led the student performances by singing a different version of a propaganda war song that appeared in the 2011 film Captain America.
“Are we so sure that freedom is the American way? Is there such a thing as Captain America?”
Lee-Litowitz also sang Fallout Boy’s “You’re Crashing But You’re No Wave,” a song which she says makes her think of police brutality, the shooting in Ferguson, and of Fred Hampton, who was part of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s civil rights movement before he was killed by the FBI in his sleep at the age of 21.
There were representatives from student groups, including the Black Students League (BSL), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Amnesty International, Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), and Students for Justice in Palestine. Several of these groups encouraged those who attended to write letters to senators and other authorities, using sample templates to help guests develop their thoughts about a particular issue that they cared for.
Representatives of SAGA wrote letters to the local Pennsylvania state legislative district to support “Equality Pennsylvania,” a group working to include LBTQ anti-discrimination as part of The Pennsylvania Non-discrimination Bill (HB/SB 300). If passed, the new bill will protect LGBT people from being denied housing, employment, hospital aid or library services because on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
BSL representatives led students to write letters encouraging the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to further investigate the death of 17-year-old high school student Lennon Lacy. Lacy was found hanging from a swing set in a trailer park in Bladenboro, N.C. on August 29th. Local police and state detectives said they found no evidence of murder, but the scratches and abrasions all over Lacy’s body and Bladenboro’s history of violent racism (86 black people were lynched there between 1882 and 1968, according to The Guardian) would suggest otherwise. The BSL also helped students write letters to support the Lacy family.
The Alliance of Latin American Students (ALAS) provided the opportunity to write letters to congressmen and senators to promote immigration reform, specifically regarding pathways to citizenship and workers rights. Other groups were mainly there to educate, rather than write letters. This included Students for Justice in Palestine, where Yabin Lu, ’17, explained that the group hopes to bring in speakers and host documentary screenings about humanitarian problems caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Students gathered in clusters, writing letters and sealing them to send to their respective locations. Others gathered at tables and had conversations with representatives about the issues they most cared about. They hopped from table to table, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn all about the student peace and justice groups.
“There are so many different human rights issues so it is sometimes hard for groups to find a focus,” said Hollander. “This event helped us to gauge where interests lie among the students at Haverford.”
The night ended with a performance by Morgana Warner-Evans ’16, who sang an original piece titled, “Made in the USA,” with her guitar. It made references to the military industrial complex and the use of tear gas in Egypt. The performance was followed by enthusiastic applause from the audience.
“Hopefully the students who came had a good time and learned a little bit about human rights and Amnesty International,” said Hollander, who hopes to repeat the event in the future. Jamnesty with Amnesty was a rare moment where nearly all of the human rights groups on campus gathered to share and learn from each other.